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Credit Runs Our World

Looking Back with Lloyd Mathews, originally printed February 19, 1979

  It’s a great big credit card world we’re living in. Wallets are bursting at the seams trying to carry the overload of cards that will serve as money for any purchase from a haircut to a trip around the world. Automobiles are getting bigger and shinier, and houses are getting larger and more plush, and both are getting more energy-sapping at a time when we are all aware that the world’s natural energy sources are fast running out. Americans run to and fro on super highways to vacationlands in campers as well-equipped as their push-button homes, pulled by Continentals that suck up fuel like the Arab oil wells will never go dry.

Many Americans are content to be taking more from the earth than the ecology-minded can ever hope to replace, while the apparent attitude of the complacent multitudes is live and let die. Rich men are getting richer, and all men are getting more in debt, because credit is much too cheap.

Racketeers are making millions of dollars smuggling unlawful drugs into the country, but few are caught, because we can’t afford the cost of chasing them down. We don’t care enough to change the situation.

Occasionally we take time out to stand back and admire ourselves; how, through the sweat of the brow, we have accomplished great things for ourselves and our families. We have fallen in love with all that is tasty to the palate, gorgeous to the eyes, inflating to the ego, and comfortable to the body. We are seemingly thumbing our noses at our Creator, with an attitude of “who needs heaven.” The riches that we think we are accumulating for our children will not provide the pure air and clean water that they will need in the future. But we can’t seem to realize that.

We have lived through the era of spring, and have moved into the summer of a cycle. We had better hope for a long long summer, because the next season is fall. How much longer can the paper base on which we stand hold up. How reminiscent of a time 50 years ago.

The summer of 1929 was happy, rollicking, and fast moving. “What a time to live,” they were saying. The great Babe Ruth and his teammate Lou Gehrig were knocking baseballs all over New York. Ring hero Jack Dempsey had recently gone into retirement, making room for several top fighters to entertain spendthrift public. A young crooner named Bing was slaying the women with his smooth voice. Automobiles were getting longer and wider, and people were riding on the comfort of balloon tires, rumble seats and touring cars. Everyone who didn’t own one was living on the promise of one or more in every garage. The queen of moviedom was Greta Garbo, and Amos and Andy were holding the nation spellbound with happenings in and around the Fresh Air Taxi Stand, after being lulled by the smooth voice of Lowell Thomas.

The wealthy were toasting their good fortune with tinkling glasses of illegal moonshine whiskey, while those of lesser circumstances thrilled to the yanking of stubborn corks from the narrow necks of homebrew bottles, and the sight of great oceans of lovely suds flowing over everything in its path. Charles A. Lindbergh and his female counterpart were exciting millions with their daredevil exploits in the air. And men of little conscience were exciting more millions through the sale of sometimes-poisonous alcohol, and the flesh of women.

The red-hot dance called the Charleston was giving way to the return of dancing cheek to cheek. And like so many times since that year, skirts were short short. On the beaches, an occasional two-piece bathing suit could be spotted. The Philadelphia Athletics wiped out the Chicago Cubs to win the 1929 World Series four games to one.

A poor-born engineer who had made a name and fortune for himself in mining was in the White House. His name was Herbert Hoover, and he was a frugal administrator, who inherited some serious problems, and created some more. His job was to try and continue a prosperity that was as thin as the paper it was built upon.

(Continued next week.)

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